Cookware Advice for new Kitchen Owners

I’m not sure if this info is just for new kitchen owners….. Many of us who spend time in the kitchen love exploring cookware options.

I started out with a ‘set’ of Teflon coated pots and pans in ‘Country Brown’. It lasted a couple of years until it was replaced with a ‘good’ set of stainless steel cookware purchased with my winnings from our wedding trip to Reno…. Wedding trip as in we got married there, but that’s another story.

Then Williams-Sonoma came into our area and I started buying cast aluminum skillets and pots (Calphalon). In recent years I’ve added non-stick skillets to my kitchen, primarily because I no longer need a 12″ skillet but often use 2 or 3 8″ skillets at the same time.

I still have the stainless steel and use the saucepans every day. I occasionally get out my big cast aluminum stock pots but the skillets are rarely used.

The one thing I have never owned is a cast iron skillet. My mother had 2 that she used every day. I have no idea why I have never added 1 or 2 to my kitchen…..

I also have some of those lovely copper pots and lids you see in the first photo. They came with the house.

Read on to find more info on cookware:

You’re brand new kitchen has finally been fitted and you are raring to start using it. However you still need some cooking tools to kit it out.

Choosing new cookware for your kitchen should be a simple process but it’s surprisingly not so straightforward.

There are many factors to consider while you are deciding which cookware to buy. The market is saturated with different types. Some recommended by celebrity chefs, budget versions, premium choices and different metals & materials.

The factors you need to consider for cookware will include heat conductivity, durability, cost, maintenance and reactivity.

Heat Conductivity

Different metals react differently to others under heat. What this means is basically if you adjust the heat on your cooker some metals will cool or heat up quicker than others. Copper for instance has very good heat conductivity. If you lowered the temperature on your hob a copper pan would drop in temperature quicker than a stainless steel one. This is important for making sure food is cooked evenly.

Durability

How long will your pots and pans last? Some require more maintenance than others. We will look more into this a little later. Cast iron cookware is one of the most durable types on the market.

Cost

This simply comes down to your budget. The best advice from professionals would be to buy the best you can afford.

Maintenance

You should take this into consideration when making any purchase. Do you enjoy polishing pots and pans or would you rather have something that requires minimal maintenance? Copper pots look very nice but to stay that way requires a considerable amount of work. Stainless steel is much more easily maintained.

Reactivity

This is what happens when certain foods react with the metals under heat. Acidic foods will react with aluminium.

Now you can see there are many factors to choosing your cookware. It is time to start looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the different choices on the market.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Types of Cookware

Aluminium Cookware

Aluminum is a very common metal which means it is also cheaper than other metals such as copper. Any cookware store or cookware section will have an abundance of aluminium items. It conducts heat extremely well and will be hot enough to cook very quickly. It is very durable and will last a long time if looked after.

Aluminium will often be covered in non stick coating which makes cleaning easier and reduces the chance of burning food.

The disadvantages of aluminium are that it is easily scratched so when considering your purchase look for equipment that has a scratch resistant coating. This is called anodization and will also stop the aluminium reacting with acidic foods. Alternatively consider stainless steel cookware that has a layer of aluminium inside to deliver heat conductivity.

Copper Cookware

This is the choice of most professionals and you are more likely to see it in working kitchens than the average household. This is because of a number of reasons.

The advantages include excellent heat conductivity and thus adjusts to changes in temperature very fast. You could consider stainless steel combined with a layer of copper to keep the conductivity but reduce costs.

The disadvantages include the cost. Copper is not as common as aluminium and therefore very expensive. The other downsides to it are that it reacts badly with certain foods and requires a lot more maintenance than other materials. As mentioned earlier if you don’t like a lot of polishing then copper is probably not for you.

Stainless Steel Cookware

Definitely the most common type of cookware. This would be found in most people’s homes and is likely to be combined with aluminium or copper to improve the heat conductivity.

There are quite a few advantages to stainless steel. As the name implies it is resistant to rust, stains and scratches. It is easily maintained and very durable. It doesn’t react with food. It is easy to clean and will retain it’s looks for a long time. It is also the most affordable of the types of cookware listed here.

The disadvantages of stainless steel are it’s heat conductivity. On it’s own it will cook food very unevenly so it is very important to choose cookware with copper or aluminium at its core.

Cast Iron Cookware

The first thing you may think about cast iron is how heavy it is but there are advantages to this. It is very, very durable. Cast iron pots, pans, griddles etc should last for years. As long as you maintain it, and this where the disadvantages come in.

First the good news, it is reasonably inexpensive, it is easier to clean than some other cookware, it retains heat very well and can even add iron into your diet through cooking. Because it retains heat it is ideal for serving some foods at the table still in the pot or skillet keeping them nice and hot.

Disadvantages are that it is heavy (although you should get used to this), the handles get hot, it can rust and react with food unless it is seasoned (more on that in a moment) and takes longer to heat up.

These days most cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned. This is where oil is heated up in the pan until after it starts smoking. It adds a layer of non stick protection to the pan. To make the pan last you may find you have to keep on re-seasoning to stop rust and corrosion. You must also not use a dishwasher or hard scrubber as this will remove your seasoning from the pan.

Making the Decision for your new Cookware

Now you are armed with some facts it is time to make your choice. Stainless steel is the cheapest and best all rounder but make sure you have aluminium at it’s core or copper if your budget allows. Ultimately your choice will be governed by your budget restraints, the time you wish to invest in maintaining the cookware and your personal requirements and preferences. Make sure to follow all instructions from the manufacturer to maintain your equipment and you will hopefully have something you can enjoy cooking with for a long time.

2 thoughts on “Cookware Advice for new Kitchen Owners”

  1. We love our cast-iron pans. They are the ultimate no-stick pans. I think my favourite one is the 7-inch frying pan that is perfect for omelette making.

    But cast-iron isn’t the best for tomato sauce. We use stainless steel for that.

    I would add one more kind of cookware to this: clay pots. Our unglazed tagine is fantastic. So is our unglazed Romertopf for the oven. Slow-cooking delight!! We’re still hoping to find a Cazuela that doesn’t cost the earth. We want to see how having the glaze on the inside but unglazed on the outside makes a difference.

    • In Andorra, where we lived for 7 years, unglazed cazuelas were cheap and everywhere. Naturally, I never bothered to get one because I always could – until we left and it was too late. Maybe next trip back.
      I’m not sure I could even find cast iron here….. but lots of copper !

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